Farmer’s widow and her daughter go to war over family’s £2.5m estate

Farmer’s widow and her daughter go to war over family’s £2.5m estate

May 21, 2019

Millionaire farmer’s widow faces losing her £2.5million home after a fight in the COWSHED between her two daughters led to a bitter battle over family’s 220-acre estate

  • Mother and daughter fell out over who gets Somerset estate after farmer died
  • Daughter says she worked for 30 years on the farm and deserves sizable share
  • Mother says estate should be split more equally between four siblings
  • Three appeal court judges will now rule on how the estate should be split 

A mother and daughter who never got on are now locked in a £2.5million legal battle over the family’s country estate.

Lucy Habberfield, 51, was her late father Frank’s ‘blue-eyed girl’ but ‘never had a good relationship’ with mother Jane, 82, London’s Appeal Court heard.

Following her father’s death, Lucy insisted she should have been given a large share of the farm where she had worked long hours for 30 years.

Appeal judges will now decide who should get what from the 220-acre family estate near Yeovil, Somerset, after the family failed to resolve the issue.


Jane Habberfield, 82, and her daughter Lucy, 51 (right) are in a legal fight over the family farm

Mother Jane is being backed by her eldest daughter Sarah, 53, who the court heard previously came to blows with her sister Lucy in a cowshed.

The case is up on appeal after a judge last year ordered mother Jane to pay Lucy over £1.1m to compensate her for devoting her life to the farm and the cows.

But Jane says her estranged daughter got far too much of the family wealth and wants her share cut to around £220,000, to be ‘fair’ to her other children.

Daughter Lucy meanwhile claims her payout was not big enough and should be upped to about £1.6m.

Mother Jane is backed by her elder daughter Sarah, who previously fought with Jane in a cowshed

Mr Justice Birss found last year that Lucy had been promised the dairy farm would be hers by her parents and put in three decades of back-breaking work on the basis of their assurances.

She began working on the farm when she left school in the early 1980s, earning just £40-50 per week.

She worked up to 87 and a half hours and seven days a week, getting up at 4.30am, and had just five weeks’ holiday in more than three decades.

The mother-of-four carried on doing gruelling physical work for long hours with early starts when she was heavily pregnant or had young babies to care for.

Lucy told the court ‘she never had a good relationship with her mother’.

But she was their late father Frank’s ‘favourite’ and ‘blue-eyed girl’ because of their shared passion for dairy farming the judge found.

The ‘tension’ between Lucy and big sister Sarah had ‘gone on for a very long time’ before they had a physical fight in the milk parlour at the farm, said the judge, adding that ‘all the Habberfield family had a temper’.

The milk parlour fight marked a turning point, the judge said, adding that it was ‘impossible to say’ whose fault it was, but that Lucy and her partner Stuart Parker left the farm the same day and had never returned since.

‘Lucy clearly blames Sarah to a significant extent for all that has happened and conversely Sarah blames Lucy and Stuart,’ the judge said.

The farm (pictured) is just outside the pretty village of Yeovil Marsh in south Somerset

Lucy was her father’s favourite and eldest sister Emma described Lucy as her father’s ‘blue-eyed girl,’ he added.

‘I suspect part of the bitterness which is manifest in this dispute has been caused by long-running and deeply felt resentment about Lucy’s position in relation to Frank as compared to her siblings,’ the judge said.

Richard Wilson QC, for Jane, told the Appeal Court that she accepts Lucy had been promised the farm in exchange for her devotion to the dairy herd.

But Jane is now arguing her youngest daughter lost her rights when she refused a 2008 offer by her parents to take her into the farm partnership with them, with a view to her eventually being handed control.

The family feud over the farm will be decided by judges at London’s Court of Appeal

Jane wants Lucy’s payout slashed, claiming she should get little more than £220,000 to represent the ‘underpayment’ in terms of wages for her lifetime of work on the farm.

Jane also begged the judges – if they refused to cut Lucy’s payout – to order it to be paid out of her estate after her death, instead of now.

Leslie Blohm QC, for Lucy, denied that refusing to go into business with her parents in 2008 had erased her right to the farm.

Mr Blohm also argued that Lucy’s payout should have been even bigger, saying the award she was handed didn’t take into account the years of work done on the farm by her partner Mr Parker, the dad of her four children.

Of her mum’s plea to not be forced to sell the farmhouse, Lucy’s QC said, if Jane had to sell her home, it would be because of debts to lawyers she ran up fighting her daughter.

Lord Justice Lewison, Lord Justice Moylan and Lady Justice Rose reserved their decision on the case. It will be delivered at later date yet to be set.

 

Source: Read Full Article